House Judiciary Republicans ask Twitter for answers on content moderation of conservative accounts

Members of the House Judiciary Committee sent letters to the CEOs of Twitter and Parler as part of their ongoing investigation into competition in digital markets

Updated: July 9, 2020 - 8:50am

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Top Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Sensenbrenner, have sent letters to the CEOs of social media platforms Twitter and Parler, as part of the panel's investigation into competition in digital markets.

In their letter to Jack Dorsey, Twitter's CEO, the members seek answers on recent content-moderation decisions made by the social networking site, particularly, as they pertain to a number of tweets by President Trump that have been flagged and tagged for various reasons in the past weeks. 

On June 23, Trump tweeted that he would not allow an "autonomous zone" to be established in the nation's capital, like the one that had been erected in Seattle, Washington.

Twitter censored the tweet claiming that it violatedTwitter’s policy against "abusive behavior, specifically, the presence of a threat of harm against an identifiable group.”

Jordan and Sensenbrenner write, "The president's tweet, which did not threaten any harm, simply promised law and order in the face of anarchical violence." 

They also say that Twitter has been censoring politically conservative voices in a separate fashion from the rest of its users.

"Twitter's discrimination against conservative voices is extremely alarming. These actions give rise to concerns that the company is systematically engaged in the disparate treatment of political speech and is deceiving users of the platform by not uniformly applying its terms of service," the congressmen write.

"While Twitter has sought to silence conservative voices, including the President of the United States, on its platform, Twitter has allowed violent extremists to use its platform with apparent impunity. Notably, Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran."

As a result of the company's actions against specific users, in addition to evidence suggesting active disdain for conservatives coming from Twitter's Head of Site Integrity, who is the person responsible for developing and enforcing the platform's rules, the congressmen have asked Twitter to provide accounting for all content moderation decisions made by Twitter over the past year for U.S. users of the social media app, including the reason their content was moderated

They have also requested documents and communications pertaining to Twitter's decision to "fact check" Trump's May 26 mail-in ballot tweet, as well as his autonomous zone tweet. 

In their letter to Parler CEO, John Matze, the congressmen invite Matze to provide the perspective of the newly popularized social media site to the committee.  

Founded in 2018, Parler has branded itself an alternative option to social networking sites that censor the speech of their users. Jordan and Sensenbrenner wish to gain the perspective of a company that is attempting to establish market competition in a field where social media companies do not charge users for their services.

"Because the social media market is filled predominantly with companies that offer their services to users for free, Parler is generally unable to offer a lower price to users than its competitors," wrote the congressmen. "Therefore, Parler differentiates itself on the quality and features of its platform – namely, its commitment to not 'censor or editorialize, share or sell user data.' This commitment positions Parler in stark contrast to Twitter, which has made increasingly clear in recent weeks and months that only users who refrain from expressing certain unfavored political beliefs are welcome to fully participate on its platform."

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